Presidential Contenders: Part 1 of [Many!]

I’ve been meaning to write a profile roundup of all the candidates in both parties running for president. The first caucus in Iowa is still months away, but presidential election news is already on the front page pretty much every day. Obviously a lot of this is thanks to the steady stream of new Republican candidates declaring in spring and early summer — for anyone counting, the GOP is up to seventeen candidates now. Only some of these are seen in the media as having a serious chance at winning the nomination, let alone the general election, but it’s so damn entertaining that I just have to profile all of them.

By far the most entertainment revolves around Donald Trump on the Republican side, although Democrats have their fair share of drama with the upstart candidate Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT). We’ll start on the GOP side for that reason, and we’ll start with the front runner himself:

Donald John Trump
Hometown: New York
Occupation: businessman, reality TV star
Previous elected offices: none, although he flirted with a presidential run in 2012 and running for New York governor earlier

Donald Trump has more or less been the news for the last month or so. Every word, every speech, every controversy, and every helicopter ride in Iowa. The media love him — or more accurately, love covering him — and apparently a lot of Americans do too. He has held a lead among the GOP candidates for months now, and already appears to have a Teflon quality to his candidacy. So far, he has given out Senator Lindsey Graham’s phone number, insulted other candidates, attacked Fox News, and mocked Senator John McCain’s war record. Nothing has really deflated his numbers.

There are a few possibilities with Trump. 1) He’s completely serious in everything he says. 2) He isn’t, and he intends to pivot a bit to the center if he won the nomination or ran as an independent. 3) He’s completely not serious and is doing this to troll the Republican Party, drawing out the far-right’s influence and forcing the eventual winner of the nomination to pivot so far right that winning the general election becomes increasingly unlikely.

There’s a good argument to be made for any of these, and I personally believe the truth is somewhere between 2 and 3, although anyone’s guess is as good as mine. But the real test of Trump’s candidacy is going to be what happens to his numbers when the field inevitably narrows to a handful of contenders. Will supporters of other candidates move to Trump’s camp if their first choice withdraws, back someone like Senator Ted Cruz, or back a more mainstream candidate like Governors Jeb Bush or John Kasich? That will be the real test of his candidacy as the race progresses. It seems unlikely that he has much of a chance to win people over, but conventional wisdom has been wrong before.

I’m going to leave it at just Trump for now, well in keeping with the trend of obsessive media coverage of him and his campaign. But I’ll be posting more frequent updates in the next week on the rest of the GOP field. I’ll also include a bit more of my personal opinion of them. It’s difficult to do that with Trump, because I’m so unsure as to what he believes or what he’d do, given that he doesn’t have a record in office to go off of. Some of his rhetoric is downright odious, but he also brings a welcome no-BS attitude toward issues like campaign finance and how politicians tend to serve their donors above all. And the possibility that he’s doing this all as a hilarious joke to help Hillary Clinton win.

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